Women members win pensions equal-pay fight
(08/06/09) Dozens of low-paid UNISON members are celebrating a pension pay-out after a decade-long legal fight against a top private school.
UNISON helped the women win a pay-out of more than £150,000 after they took their claim against the Haberdashers' schools for boys and girls in Monmouth to the employment tribunals in 1998.
The part-time workers at the schools, which charge up to £17,000 a year for boarders, were denied access to the pension scheme, although full-time male staff in similar roles were allowed to join the scheme on a voluntary basis.
The union successfully argued that pensions were deferred pay and that denying the women membership breached both equal pay and sex discrimination legislation.
The 27 women, many of whom are retired, will now receive pay-outs of between £1,500 and £17,000, but are angry that the case was dragged out for so many years and that colleague Kay Bamford, who worked as a cleaner for more than 10 years, died before she could benefit from the victory.
"I am pleased that we have got justice for our members at last," commented UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, "but it has taken over a decade, which shows how desperately we need a speeded up system to deal with equal pay claims.
"The school dragged out the case and probably spent more in legal costs than it did to settle the dispute with their loyal workers."
He added that the union is determined to end sex discrimination in the workplace and "will hold employers to account, no matter how long the struggle."
Tess Taylor, 70, who worked at the school as an assistant matron for 27 years, added: "I think this is a large victory for small people. This must be a landmark case and we are glad to have won after all these years.
"But I find it crazy that a satisfactory offer from the school was only made days before the tribunal took place – and that it took so long to help the retired workers that Kay Bamford will be unable to benefit."
UNISON press release
UNISON working for equal pay
UNISON in schools
UNISON in Cymru/Wales